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    Welcome Aboard!

    In this time of economic turmoil and layoffs a post about new employee onboarding may seem out of place.

    But, in many organizations the hiring and onboarding process never really stops, it may slow down a bit in a downturn, but there are always folks retiring, resigning, or otherwise leaving, and some new hires turning up. Getting your new employees off to a good start is really critical, most employees make the 'stay-or-go' decision within the first few months, and as many as 4% of new hires will leave after a disaster of a first day.

    FlickR- MEADEH

    Or, as in the case in many organizations, long-standing vacancies have recently seen an uptick in applicants, and all of a sudden a minuscule, mediocre applicant pool has some really talented prospects. So now is probably a really good time to assess your onboarding process and make changes as necessary.  

    If you are like most organizations, your onboarding process mainly consists of a checklist of administrative tasks (payroll forms, computer account requests, parking passes), followed by some scheduled meetings with the department manager and possibly some other key people to get the new hire started in understanding the role, the organization, the processes, etc.  Larger organizations usually offer some type of New Employee Orientation workshop, where various support and administrative departments talk to a group of new employees regarding policies and procedures, normally the HR department organizes and facilitates these sessions.

    All sounds pretty good right?  But what typically is missing is the ongoing support and networking that is usually critical for the success of the new hire. Who are the key sources of knowledge? Where is the repository of crucial information, the kind of stuff that is not in the 'official' company handbook.  Does any new employee truly succeed by doing what is in the handbook?

    Since networking and access to knowledge are the key factors in new employee time to productivity, what are some of the tools and technologies available to better manage this process?

    Corporate Social Networks - these are robust solutions offering features like employee profiles, discussion groups, blogs, etc.  The best known vendor in this space is probably SelectMinds. Jive Software's Clearspace product is also well regarded. These are 'big' solutions designed for larger organizations that have a well-developed strategy on employee collaboration. These are designed to give new hires a 'pre-built' network of the key folks in the organization that they will need to rely on to succeed. 

    Public Social Networks - Set up a company or division page on Facebook, and LinkedIn, and encourage your employees to register and connect their.  This approach will emphasize the 'social' aspect much more than the professional, but if the point is to foster better and more meaningful connections amongst your staff if may work.  Besides, many of your employees are already on Facebook, and unless you are planning to block the site (generally a bad idea), you may as well go where they are.

    Blogging and micro-blogging - There is almost no reason why your leadership (CEO, CIO, CFO, whatever) should not have at least a private, internal blog.  Executive blogs (and more frequently the comments) can reveal to a new employee more of the pulse or sensibilities of the organization.  These tools can also allow a new hire to introduce themselves to the conversation,  in a less formal or intimidating way than the traditional, 'march around and get introduced routine'. As for micro-blogging, set up your company on Yammer, and encourage your new hires to sign up.  Yammer (if you can get some key adopters) can be a great source of company news, projects, and discussion. 

    These are just a few quick thoughts, ranging from the big and complex (a corporate social network) to simple and free, (Yammer).  There are lots more ways to approach this, and I will cover a few dedicated onboarding tools in another post.



    Why have an HR Technology Course?

    So why is there an HR Technology Course in our Human Resource Development program?

    FlickR - Pete Reed

    Here is why:

    1. All the essential HR processes, Payroll, record-keeping, Benefits Administration, compliance reporting are all deeply rooted in technology.  And understanding of these concepts, and the important vendors and solutions in these areas is necessary for any HR leader.

    2. Increasingly, the strategic HR functions known as 'Talent Management' rely on modern, sophisticated technologies to support business strategy and deliver real business value. From recruiting, performance management, succession planning, training and development, and compensation planning, organizations are more and more looking to technology, and those HR leaders that can harness it, to lead important strategic initiatives. 

    3. HR can and should take the lead in efforts to increase employee productivity, enable more effective collaboration,  and increase the sense of community in the organization. Content management, collaboration tools, social networking are just some of the scores of technologies available to the HR leader in this space.  How to begin to understand these technologies and their application is a key aspect of the course.

    The HR leader must have a better grasp of technology beyond e-mail, IM and Outlook calendars.

    HR and Technology are from now on an inseparable pair.

    And that is why we have an HR Technology course.



    HR Technology Conference

    The 11th annual HR Technology Conference is underway in Chicago.

    Sadly, as I am right in the middle of the Fall Academic Quarter I am not able to attend this year.

    There are scores of product announcements made each year at HR Technology, but I thought I would point out two of the most interesting announcements from this year's conference:

    Cornerstone OnDemand  

    Cornerstone OnDemand is adding a new social networking platform to its integrated talent management suite of software and services. Cornerstone Connect helps organizations reach both internal and external audiences via Web 2.0 features ranging from communities of practice, blogs, wikis and user profiles, to rating/sharing content, knowledge management (including alumni), podcasts, RSS feeds and more. Using Cornerstone Connect, organizations can improve employee performance, foster connections, cultivate informal learning, and engage customers and partners to drive innovation and lower support costs.


    Softscape will introduce the new science of Talent Management – Softscape TalentGenetics™. This latest innovation from Softscape provides a new level of talent visualization never seen before to capture and share employee knowledge. The platform also offers embedded social-networking and expanded functions for social knowledge sharing.

    What I find interesting about these, is the emphasis on the integration of Web 2.0 features into 'classic' Talent Management platforms.  These vendors are among the very early adopters of this approach, to try and merge these features like social networking, tagging, RSS etc. into traditional, typically dull applications.

    This integration of Web 2.0 features into existing HRMS applications is a growing trend, and one that I think more vendors will try to get in on in the coming 12-18 months.

    I am looking forward to seeing the results of these product launches, and hope to get to demo them in my HR Tech class very soon.


    Who's on first?

    'Who's on first?', is a classic comedy routine by the legendary American comics Abbott & Costello. Aside - even 1940s comedians are on the net check out A&C's website here. The routine is essentially a play on a failure to communicate, Costello wants to know the name of a certain baseball player, and Abbott can't seem to get across clearly that the player's name is 'Who', thus the recurring theme of the bit, Costello keeps asking 'Who's on first?' and Abbott keeps saying 'Yes'.

    Video of the classic bit can be found here.

    The idea of Who's on first? makes me think about who (customers, employees, shareholders) is 'first' in most organizations today. Many organizations will have well-defined, budgeted campaigns and programs specifically centered on the customer, how to find them, how to keep them, how to get them happier, spend more, tell all their friends, and otherwise 'delight' them.

    But very few put similar emphasis and focus on programs aimed at their employees, getting to understand them better, keep them motivated, discover their hidden talents and aspirations.  Systems and processes are usually not centered around employees leading to the often noticed phenomenon in many organizations - 'LinkedIn knows more about your employees than you do'. Think about it, are your employees current skills and profiles easily accessible in your HR systems? Are they up to date? Are you saving 20 year old resumes in a file somewhere?

    The astronomical growth and popularity of Social networking sites reveals that people want to share experience, knowledge, and learn from each other.  Why not shift some of your 'customer' focus to an 'employee' focus? 

    Find out where and how your employees are congregating, self-organizing, and otherwise connecting with each other, as well as your industry, customers and the marketplace.

    Does it make sense for your organization to develop your own 'place' or network for your employees?  

    Check out what Best Buy is doing with Blue Shirt Nation, or from a vendor perspective check out SelectMinds.

    Should we focus more on our employees?



    Downturn dilemma

    Stock market cratering, employees on edge with 401(k) values plummeting, layoff rumors buzzing, not a great time here in corporate America.  While I am not smart enough to predict how all this will shake out, I do know one thing, your organization may need to start postponing planned or needed technology projects in order to cut costs and ride out the storm.

    What can you as an HR Technologist do in the interim?  Because in the current environment your employees are more nervous that ever, your need to help your company execute the strategy is more critical than before, and you may have had your project funding and/or resources yanked from under your nose.

    In a strange way, the downturn may actuallly help you kick-start some experimentation and pilot projects using technologies that are simple to implement, do not require a significant investment, and don't 'trap' you into a long-term situation that you worry you won't be able to afford.

    Some ideas:

    1. Kick-start a Yammer trial with the HR department

    2. Organize and seed a simple wiki to share internal infomation in your department (everyone's e-mail inbox is maxed out already) - check out PbWiki or Socialtext, both offer free versions totally acceptable for a trial deployment

    3. Get a read on your Employment image in the Web 2.0 world.  Search for your company name followed by 'Jobs' or 'Careers' on Google, FlickR, YouTube, Facebook and other popular site where your target candidate pool congregates.  What are you seeing in the results?  Do you need to upload a simple 2 minute recruiting video to YouTube?  You probably already have something like this on your corporate website, it will take you 5 minutes to get it on YouTube and cost you nothing.

    4. Get on Twitter. Use Twitter Search to see who and what is being talked about your brand, industry, region. Consider if an active presence on Twitter makes sense for your brand. Save the Twitter search(es) you need as RSS feeds in your feed reader.

    And here is another point to consider, whether your focus is tying to build better community and collaboration among your employees, or to gain insight to the external community of customers, prospects, potential applicants, either way those folks are already out there in Web 2.0, talking about you, commenting, tagging, and influencing your organization. 

    So, maybe you no longer have the funds for the ERP upgrade, or the new Applicant Tracking System, but there are lots of other HR Technology avenues to pursue in the meantime.

    What else can you be doing to make sure when the downturn shifts back to an upturn you are smarter and more prepared that before?


    photo credit - FlickR Simon Willison